State lawmakers ask for better notice after city’s release of nitrogen-contaminated water into Kansas River; 10 million gallons released so far

After short notice that the City of Lawrence was authorized to release up to 30 million gallons of nitrogen-contaminated water into the Kansas River, state lawmakers from districts downstream want better notifications going forward.

In a meeting of the Senate Utilities Committee Thursday, Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, told city and Kansas Department of Health and Environment representatives that he wants to make sure the city’s nitrogen-contaminated water releases will not become normal operating practice and that notification will improve. Olson said there needs to be better notification up and down the river when such releases happen.

“Have we learned something here, to maybe improve on it?” Olson said. “And not just because it was Lawrence; there’s other issues that happen on this river.”

The city removes the contaminated water from the groundwater stores under the former Farmland Industries nitrogen fertilizer plant in eastern Lawrence. KDHE authorized the city to release up to 30 million gallons of nitrogen-contaminated water from November to April as part of a makeshift plan to clean up the former plant. Concerns were raised after downstream water district WaterOne — which serves 425,000 people, or about 15 percent of Kansans — was not notified of the authorization until discharges were already taking place.

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